A 24-hour mental health facility could end up on South Foster Drive, sharing space with the Baton Rouge Detox Center across from Baton Rouge Community College.
Baton Rouge Area Foundation Project Manager Patricia Calfee revealed the proposed location Monday. The concept of a new parish mental health services facility has been discussed for more than a year; however, this is the first time a potential location has been identified.
A tax proposal, which failed in January, asked voters to spend $16.6 million for new construction with no specified location.
Later, the closure of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City emergency room fueled rumors that the vacancy on Florida Boulevard could be used for the proposed mental health site.
“This just seems ideal,” Calfee said of the Detox Center location. “They’re a willing and able partner and they only occupy a certain amount of space in the building.”
The 37,000-square-foot building is the second location of the Detox Center, which opened in January. The facility serves people with alcohol and drug addictions.
Lisa Bailey, detox center director, said her agency is only using about a third of the South Foster building. She said she’s interested in partnering but there are “no definitive plans at this point.”
Bailey said it would be a good fit, because many of their patients are also mentally ill and because the proposed plans for a mental health center would have sobering units and medical detox services, which the detox center already provides.
BRAF also announced Monday that it had hired an Atlanta-based consultant, HMA, to write a business plan for the behavioral crisis center, which will outline recommended services, governances and how the center will be funded.
Calfee said she hopes this is the last step in the planning process before they can implement recommendations and turn the facility into a reality.
BRAF has been championing a proposal to build what it has dubbed the Recovery and Empowerment Center to address budget cuts in mental health services that divert nonviolent mentally ill people to prisons rather than hospitals for treatment.
Late last year, BRAF worked with law enforcement leaders and Mayor-President Kip Holden to tuck the proposal into a larger $335 million public safety tax proposal that also would have built a new jail. The center, which was previously referred to as the Restoration Center, was estimated to cost $16.6 million. The tax proposal included both construction and operating costs for the 24-hour facility that would have provided assessment, evaluation, intervention, outpatient recovery and counseling.
The Metro Council rejected the tax plan — preventing voters from ever weighing in. Some council members cited concerns the plan was rushed and not thoroughly vetted.
Subsequently, BRAF assembled a committee of mental health professionals to develop an outline of services and hired a consultant to examine the community benefits.
Ray Perryman, a Texas-based economist, estimated taxpayers would save $3 million the first year of implementation because of savings primarily to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. He estimated savings of almost $55 million over a decade.
BRAF is paying HMA $150,000 for the business plan, which is expected to be complete in December.
The work is being funded from “David’s Fund,” a BRAF account established by Bill O’Quin in honor of his son David, a schizophrenic who was arrested in 2013 and died in prison.